News

Young mother died of too much protein? What's behind it?


Megan Hefford of Australia died at 25 while on a protein shake diet. She suffered from a genetic defect that prevented her body from absorbing the proteins and knew nothing about it.

Are proteins to blame?
The tabloid flips with headlines a la "Mother dies of too much protein". But that's actually wrong.

Protein diet
Ms. Hefford was preparing for a bodybuilding competition. So she went on a strict diet and had plenty of protein foods and protein shakes.

Protein helps you lose weight
A protein-rich diet promotes weight loss because the body uses proteins only slowly and the stomach therefore signals early that it is full. Proteins also drive fat metabolism.

Urea cycle defect
Megan suffered from a genetic disturbance in her urinary cycle. Urea cycle defects are diseases of the metabolism.

What does this disorder do?
The nitrogen excretion is disturbed. This increases the ammonia content in the blood. Ammonia in turn acts as a poison on the nerve cells - especially in the brain.

Inborn and potentially fatal
If this hereditary disease remains untreated, it often leads to death - even without protein shakes. If it is recognized early, treatment promises success.

When does the disease break out?
The disease breaks out either in infancy, at puberty, in pregnant women or with increased intake of protein (proteins). The latter was the case with Megan.

Too much ammonia
The Australian died on June 21. Her blood was too high in ammonia and fluid had collected in her brain.

Is there a protein overdose?
Dr. Stephan Glienke from Hanover researches as a historian on bodybuilding and health and straightens the false reports of the tearing press. He says: "1.) there is no" protein overdose "2.) the woman did not die from the protein, but from an inherited illness."

Proteins are innocent
Glienke explains: “Basically, it is a matter of the woman eating a high-protein diet, as well as protein shakes. Neither is responsible for her death. But it’s responsible for a metabolic disorder that she suffered from, which caused her body to have difficulty metabolizing large amounts of protein. ”

The media act irresponsibly
Journalists in Germany simply copied what similarly dubious magazines distributed in English-speaking countries. Glienke explains: "The case had previously been published in the English press and the protein was also wrongly blamed for her death, but not for her metabolic disorder."

Symptoms went unnoticed
The deceased showed symptoms that indicated her illness, but did not clear them up. Glienke says: "Anyone who follows the case knows that her mother reports that her daughter often suffered from weakness in the body, but therefore did not go to the doctor to be examined."

Parents demand protein controls
Megan's parents, however, blame the proteins. Glienke says: "After her death, her parents are now demanding greater control over the supplement industry so that dietary supplements such as protein powder cannot be easily sold."

Shifted responsibility
For Glienke, it is a clear case of shifted responsibility: “” For me, it is a typical case of externalized responsibility and reminds me very much of how teenagers dealt with suicide in the 1990s. The parents blamed heavy metal and especially Judas Priest for the suicide of their children, because apparently some of them had heard metal before they committed suicide. This is, of course, much easier for the bereaved, so to ask yourself uncomfortable questions about why they haven't noticed that their children are suicidal, or whether they have devoted enough time to them or have taken care of them enough. So the responsibility is comfortably shifted to the music, just like here to the protein powder. ”

Are protein controls useful?
Megan did not die from proteins, but from an inherited disease. Glienke compares: “Other people are allergic to lactose or gluten, which is not a reason that milk and wheat products are withdrawn from the market. It just means that if you find negative effects on your consumption, you should follow them up and have a doctor examine you for clarity. ”

Sensational press misleads
A joke about scaremongering in the media reads: “Sodium chloride discovered in table salt”. The situation is similar with the “killer protein”. Glienke concludes: “In any case, the lactose intolerance of some people is not yet a reason for headlines like“ milk kills ”or“ slow wheat death is slowly creeping up. ”

Genetic test detects hereditary diseases in babies
So instead of declaring proteins, table salt or bread to be bad guys, one consequence of tragic death would be: Have your baby examined for genetic defects: a genetic test detects hereditary diseases in babies. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information


Video: What you can do to prevent Alzheimers. Lisa Genova (December 2021).